Not quite Cannes by the Lake: the 14th Keswick Film Festival

Claire Smith

Cumbria’s premiere film festival returns this spring.

Think of a film festival and the images that spring to mind might be of glittering Cannes, the indie charms of Sundance or, closer to home, Edinburgh. You’d be forgiven for not having a small town in the Lake District come to mind. Yet the picturesque Lakes town of Keswick has been quietly staging its own celebration of cinema, and this spring unveils its fourteenth offering.

While the programme may be miniscule when compared to the likes of Cannes, the Keswick fest still boasts big names. Or, to be precise, one in particular: its patron is none other than the four time BAFTA award-winning actor, John Hurt. The man himself will be in attendance at the three-day festival, along with his film producer wife, Anwen Rees Myers, and has selected a film – Tulpan – to be screened.

A small but perfectly formed homage to celluloid set in one of the Lakes’ loveliest towns

The self-styled “friendly film festival”, set up by Keswick Film Club founder Tony Martin in 2000, will dominate cultural proceedings in the town next month: screenings take place at the otherwise “dark” Theatre by the Lake and the 100 year-old Alhambra Cinema (the Rheged centre, close to Penrith, is also one of the participating venues). Appearances from guest directors and screenwriters round out the programme, while the annual Osprey Short Film Awards showcase new films with a Cumbrian connection. All in all, it’s a small but perfectly formed homage to celluloid that comes with the added attraction of being set in one of the Lake District’s loveliest market towns. Our picks of this year’s festival include:

Peace and Conflict: Narrated by John Hurt and made by filmmaker Tony Britten, both of whom will be attending the festival, this film celebrates the life of Benjamin Britten on the centenary of the composer’s birth. The drama-documentary explores how the man’s work was influenced by his lifelong pacifism.

War Requiem: Linking to Peace and Conflict via the music of Benjamin Britten and poetry of Wilfred Owen, this powerful anit-war film will be introduced by its producer, Don Boyd.

Everyday: Described by critics as “a lovely piece of film-making” and starring Shirley Henderson and John Simm, Everyday tells the story of a family whose father has been imprisoned. Filmed over a period of five years, to match the husband’s sentence, it depicts a wife trying to cope without her husband, their children growing up before our eyes.

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